Surprises & Disappointments of the NBA Playoffs
By Guest Blogger Geoff Nelowet:
The Memphis Grizzlies:
Memphis currently holds a 2-1 lead over the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs. What’s shocking is that they’re doing this without Rudy Gay, their second leading scorer. Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol have been absolutely dominant, shooting a combined 19-25 for 49 points and 23 rebounds just in game 1. If they want to pull the upset, they’ll need Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Shane Battier to continue their consistent play.
Some might not see Chris Paul’s dominant play against the LA Lakers as a huge surprise, but after coming off of major surgery and looking like, well, a post-major injury player for most of the year, his aggressive, physical and dynamic play has turned the New Orleans Hornets from an afterthought into ostensibly a title contender. Not to discredit his teammates, but this is looking like a one-man show, and it’s hard to see the Hornets having anything close to a chance against the LA Lakers without him (not that they’d be in the playoffs without him, anyway). At this point, it’s safe to say that Paul was the most overlooked MVP candidate this season.
The Atlanta Hawks:
This is quite a surprise. The Hawks are up 3-1 on the Orlando Magic, a team that swept them a season ago in what was the most uneven playoff series in NBA history. Well, times have changed, and the Hawks look like a fine-tuned machine, while the Magic look like a team with a bunch of moving parts. Atlanta looks like a deep with solid balance and depth with six guys that will almost always be in double figures. Orlando, on the other hand, relies on Dwight Howard alone to carry their team. Still, Atlanta has little chance of knocking off Chicago in the conference semifinals.
The New York Knicks:
Even with the injuries, this is hugely disappointing. Boston was playing without a starting center, and the Knicks still couldn’t manage to win a game in the series. Sure, Chauncey Billups was hurt, and Amare Stoudemire was limping in the last two games, but this Boston team isn’t in great health either. I think this series also brings into question how credible the “big three” approach really is. People point to Boston and claim that they are the original “big three” but in reality, no, they’re not. Between Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis, the Boston Celtics have had much more than three superstar players – they’ve had very good, if not the best, role players. When I look at a team like the Knicks (and Miami, obviously), I see a team that can’t handle an injury to one of their core players and a team that simply doesn’t have that many options outside of Carmelo and Amare. This team will get better, for sure, but how good will they be? Unless they land Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, this team likely won’t be doing anything memorable.
The Dallas Mavericks:
The Mavs jumped out to a 24-5 start this season and looked like a serious title contender. Today, they’re locked at 2-2 against the Portland Trailblazers, a solid team in fairness. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they can’t stay healthy. They lost Caron Butler, their second option behind Dirk, earlier this year, and likely won’t see him until next season (although he says otherwise), which is, well, disappointing. This team had a legitimate shot at going deep in the playoffs this year and if they could have somehow made it out of the West, they may have even been favored to win the title. Now, they might not make it out of the first round.
The LA Lakers:
The Lakers have underperformed for the vast majority of the season. They made a good run after the All-Star break, but for the most part, they’ve underperformed, and I don’t see how there is an excuse for that. Is it a lack of motivation? They’ve been fairly healthy all season, it’s not injuries. It seems like the Lakers have been given a pass all season because they’ll invariably bring their best effort in the playoffs, but here they are locked up at two games a piece against a team that looked dead in the water in the New Orleans Hornets. Maybe the Lakers will hit their stride and play decisively in the next round(s) (assuming they beat New Orleans), but what is saying that they will? All we’ve seen this season is a team that looks old and unmotivated.